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Elements of a coaching session.

August 28 - What happens in a coaching session depends on the development stage of the employee.  Some of your newer employees will be in learning phase and the coaching time spent with them will mostly address “don’t know” or “can’t” issues where they need to be informed about expectations or perhaps receive some training on how to perform a certain task. Intermediate level employees will have passed through the initial learning curve and know how to do most things.  They will also most likely be aware of what is expected of them.  These employees will need help fine-tuning their performance and can be rewarded for things they’re doing well. Once an employee has reached the expert level, it is rare that performance issues fall into a “don’t know” or “can’t” category.  When performance problems exist at this stage, they generally belong in the “won’t” category.  At this point, proper consequences [...]


How do you assess ongoing training requirements?

August 21 - Training for the agent shouldn’t stop after the new-hire training is completed.  Training is an ongoing evolutionary process.  The goal of your call center’s training program is to provide training for the skills necessary to perform the job, plus training for the skills necessary to enhance ongoing performance. In developing your ongoing training program, it is useful to define what employees need to know and be able to do at 30 days, 60 days, 90 days, and 120 days.  For each of these timeframes, a checklist can be developed that outlines critical knowledge of skills so training gaps and performance issues can be identified. Some typical questions you might ask at each of these stages are: What additional things does the agent need to know? What policies and procedures could affect job performance? What behaviors should be reinforced? What specific tasks can be assigned to allow for growth? [...]


Why attend the QATC Annual Conference?

August 14 There are a lot of great conferences around, but there is only one that is designed specifically for quality assurance and training professionals in the contact center.  We would love for you to join us for this amazing event, which is set for Sept. 19-21 at the Loews Vanderbilt Hotel.  Here are just a few of the many reasons to attend the QATC Annual Conference: 1. Relevancy to your position. There are a lot of call center conferences out there, but it is hard to find extensive content on training or quality assurance there. QATC surrounds you with people who are doing exactly what you’re doing! 2. High caliber conference content in a small community atmosphere. QATC is not a "mega-conference" where you feel overwhelmed and disconnected. The quality of the speakers is second to none, and the size of the conference makes it easy to connect with all [...]


Feedback is a gift.

August 7 - Engaging with employees to provide continuous feedback to grow and develop is the essence of call center success and individual performance improvement.  In fact, we often refer to feedback as a gift to present the expectations to repeat the positive and change the negative.  The “packaging” in which we offer feedback may look different, but simple tactics can reshape the ways you coach agents to achieve desired outcomes. Focus coaching sessions on a few key behaviors; highlight strengths and create an environment for agents to uncover their opportunities.  Avoid tackling every opportunity in one feedback session. Know your employees both personally and professionally.  Understand what motivates agents to do their best and find individualized ways to show appreciation for strong performance. Coach often and impromptu; don’t fall into the habit of formalized coaching sessions as the only path to offering agent feedback. Grow together with your agent by driving conversations [...]


How the phone is answered is an important first impression.

July 31 - When was the last time you called your business? I recently spoke at a conference. After the speech, the client gave me a gift: the list of everyone in the audience with their contact information. She suggested I pick up the phone and let everyone know they should hire me to speak at their next meeting. (Now, that’s a nice gift!) So, a week later our team picked up the phones and started “smiling and dialing.” We connected with a good number of the people who responded positively to our calls, but that’s not what this is about. It’s about how a company’s phones are answered – and you can probably guess, this is more rant than rave. The number of companies that messed up their first impression was ridiculously high. About a third of the way into the calls I realized we should have done a formal [...]


Verint’s Industry-Leading Knowledge Management Now Available for Companies of All Sizes

New Cloud-Based, Enterprise-Class Knowledge Solution Advances Employee Engagement, Information Access and Consistency Across Customer Service Channels MELVILLE, N.Y., July 19, 2017 —Verint® Systems Inc.(Nasdaq: VRNT)today announced its new Knowledge Management Professional™ solution for organizations that span 90 to 90,000 users.The software is designed to quickly and easily get the right information to customers and employees at the right time, and help ensure the consistent delivery of that knowledge through shared intelligence across customer channels and touchpoints. Every interaction between a company and customer is an information exchange—whether it’s a customer looking for information on a company’s website or a branch manager helping a couple prepare paperwork for a first home loan. Key to those interactions is access to timely, accurate information across the customer’s channel of choice. Many organizations today, however, face challenges fulfilling simple customer requirements—and their employees can get bogged down by an overwhelming amount of information housed in [...]


Do you need a coach, a consultant, a mentor, or a sponsor?

July 24 -  In a conversation a few years ago I heard someone say they needed to find a sponsor. My simple mind immediately thought they meant they wanted someone to support them through some type of addiction recovery program. Thankfully, they continued talking, and I soon understood they were looking for someone to be a "champion" for them at their company. Just as I was confused about a sponsor, lots of people get confused when talking about coaching, consulting, and mentoring. Each of them is critical to our personal and professional growth. Knowing which one to seek out, however, depends on your specific need. Here's an (oversimplified) breakdown: Coach Description: Structured sessions where a coach works with an individual over a set duration of time. Key Role of Coach: Support, focus, inspire, and provoke the dialogue Focus: Improvement on specific work/life issues Key Feature: Coaches help individuals figure out what [...]


Plan and document coaching sessions. 

July 17 -  A good coaching session should be planned and documented.  Here are some ideas for making this process go smoothly: Make sure there is a planned approach. Review calls and data before the session. Start by acknowledging the successful elements of calls you have previously reviewed. Playing a representative call for the agent to hear is desirable as well. Ask the agent what they feel they would like assistance with based on the call they just heard or just in general. Select no more than three items to coach on and offer a plan of attack for the agent in writing. This is great material for your managers and you to refer back to over time. Consider these sessions as a building block for the agent's success. Look for incremental improvements and continually set the standard higher. Make sure you end the session on a positive note. For future [...]


Employee rewards are not “one size fits all.”

  July 10 -  It’s important not just to recognize outstanding performance, but to reward it in a meaningful way to each employee. Rewards fall into the area of social reinforcement (the recognition discussed above) and tangible reinforcement.  In call centers today, this tangible reinforcement takes the form of gift cards, movie tickets, trips, electronics, and many other items. The key to building an effective reward program is to have rewards that are viewed as desirable and valuable by each employee. Reward programs are not “one size fits all” in terms of perceived value. While one person may be thrilled with tickets to a theatre or sporting event, another would much prefer housecleaning services or a catalog certificate.  Some might perceive lunch with the company Vice President a powerful reward, while others may see this as an intimidating negative experience. In selecting the reward options for your team members, careful consideration [...]


9 tips for improving your Quality Management program.  

 July 3 -  Quality management and coaching are paramount to driving improvement in the contact center, but what's the best approach? To score or not to score? What's the most effective way to involve agents in the process? These are just a few of the questions #ICMIchat participants answered. Below are their nine quick tips! Emphasize feedback and conversation and de-emphasize scores. Let agents have a hand in creating the quality standards and have be part of the review process. Include agents in the QA calibration sessions. Solicit their feedback and allow them to challenge scores (within reason). Make agents a part of the quality improvement strategies and projects. This directly involves them in the process and its success. Anyone can achieve a number. Actually changing behavior is a whole other ball game. Focus on coaching for improvement. Don’t forget to include positive reinforcement in addition to the coaching opportunities. Require [...]


Fun and creative contest and reward ideas.

June 26 - As we travel to call centers around the world, we love to hear (and see) the creative and fun contests and reward ideas that motivate agents.  Here are a couple of ideas that you could try in your center. We visited a center on a day when they were doing "minute to win it" contests. They'd simply watched the TV show and copied many of the ideas as well as made up some of their own. We observed an apple stacking contest and it was great fun. This works well as a fun break and is a nice activity since you only have a minute to complete the task -- and we all know there's not much time in between calls and during breaks. A cute reward program we have seen is based on each agent having a picture of a dog posted in their cube. Everyone in [...]


It takes WILL as well as SKILL and KNOWLEDGE.

June 12 - In attending a professional training seminar recently, I learned that the critical success factors in selling are like a pyramid.  At the base of the pyramid is WILL. The characteristics of WILL are: persistence, resilience, positive attitude, being a team player, confidence, and the motivation behind what you are doing.  In a nutshell, how hard do I want to work on a particular project, task, job, or training? It is the level of determination I possess. The second part of the pyramid is KNOWLEDGE: the product or technical information we have, our customers, the market we serve, those we are in competition with, and the selling processes.  Over time all of this can be taught, learned, and even mastered. The other side of the pyramid is SKILL: our tone, rapport, presence, relating, questioning, listening, positioning, and checking. Having superior skills is not only necessary, but it is very [...]


Always have a Plan B!

June 5 - During training, check your audience and make sure they are following you. If not, be prepared to put a spin on your presentation to move your group. For example, your Plan B could be a game to get the class participating and lift the load from textbook dialogue. Make the game fun and exciting, like the game called Round Robin. In this game, everyone sits in a circle and is asked a question on the topic you’re teaching. The trainer only has 60 seconds to go through a topic. Depending on time, you can keep playing the game with different topics until you see the class is comfortable with the material.  If your participants don’t know the answer, help them by asking questions that begin with the 5 W’s and 1 H (who, what, when ,where, why, and how). By switching to Plan B, whatever that might be, [...]


Consider bartering with your vendors when budgets are tight.

  May 22 - Tight budget limiting your opportunities for a needed upgrade or added feature?  Consider a barter arrangement with your vendors.  Be a reference, create a glowing video, provide something your company does as a trade. Vendors are always looking for someone who will provide a quote for their marketing materials or serve as a host to visitors who are considering buying their system who want to see it in a live operation.  These cost you little but are of major value to the vendors.  For a major trade item, consider doing a video for the vendor that can be used in their marketing process.  This will take some time and effort on your part, but the exchange may be quite worthwhile. You can also trade for services that you provide in the marketplace that the vendor or their staff would find useful.  The buyer doesn’t see a hit to their [...]


Boredom-busting ideas to improve agent retention.

May 15 - If doing the same thing 50-75 times a day sounds intellectually stimulating, stop reading.  Still there? Since many of you may have begun your career as contact center agents, you probably know how monotonous the job can be. As a manager, there are many things you likely already schedule to break up the agent’s day periodically. Things like training and team meetings along with activities like special projects. (Whether they actually happen or not is a different story.) But what else can agents do in between calls that don’t have to occur at a specific time? Consider putting together a list like the one below to build variety into your agents’ days. Happy agents make happy customers, so read on for ideas to end up with both: Development. How satisfied can you be if the customer knows more than you do by the time they make it through [...]


Perform regular assessments of call center training requirements.

May 8 - Training for the agent shouldn’t stop after the new hire orientation and initial training period is completed. Training is an ongoing evolutionary process. The goal of your call center’s ongoing training program is to provide training for the skills necessary to perform the job, plus training for the skills necessary to enhance ongoing performance. In developing your ongoing training program, it is useful to define what employees need to know and be able to do at defined job anniversaries. Common milestones are at 30 days, 60 days, 90 days, and 120 days. For each of these timeframes, a checklist should be developed that outlines critical knowledge and skills so training gaps and performance issues can be identified. Some typical questions you might ask at each of these stages are: What additional things does the agent need to know? What policies and procedures could affect job performance? What behaviors [...]


Quality Games: Handling each call with quality service.

May 1 - To successfully engage your call center representatives, one must find creative ways to capture their interest and make them a part of the solution.  One way to do this is through fun learning breaks that allow agents to play the role of a quality analyst. The game below is a great way to center your quality goals on enhancing understanding of why quality is important and develop a willingness to embrace the results your company wants to achieve. So here’s one way. Game Objectives:   In this activity, participants review quality attributes that are critical to their sales or customer service role, assess their understanding of each skill, and learn to accurately define and apply call quality with excellence on every call. This activity helps the new or current employee understand the assets possessed by top-notch sales and customer service representatives.  It also gives the representative an opportunity to [...]


Providing missed item data for coaches.

April 24 -  Scoring agent calls is only one part of the quality assurance equation. The second part is giving coaches and managers useful data. The point of QA must always be kept in mind; yes, the score is an indication of quality, but one reason quality is measured is to identify areas where improvement can be made. But what type of shape should this data take to assist in this role? The data should take on two different shapes. The first is to address each individual agent. What items on the form did each individual agent miss—particularly if the same item was missed by the same agent multiple times. By shaping the data for each individual agent, we highlight areas for coaching and improvement giving coaches a targeted approach. The second form the data should take is for the contact center as a whole. Here we want to identify what items in the contact [...]


The value of daily QA mini-calibrations.

April 17 -  In the publishing industry, change is the constant. The shift from stores to online, paper to digital, and the systems and processes needed to facilitate these changes, means our phone reps are constantly dealing with new situations, issues, and questions. As a result, our QA forms and procedures are never set in place for longer than a few months before we discover new wrinkles in our customer service experience which must be reflected in the way we score calls. This means scoring assumptions and interpretations must be changing even more frequently than the form or standards can reflect. Since those assumptions are born out of time spent scoring and listening to calls, it is crucial for QA Analysts to create a means to review a few scored calls each day. On our team, each month, one analyst who primarily scores inbound calls will take responsibility for one outbound call per rep. The outbound [...]


Introducing a new QA form gradually.

April 10 -  Creating or revising a quality assurance scoring form is no easy task. Once the form and standards are complete, the real work begins—learning as a calibration team to score the items consistently and teaching the agents on the phone the new expectations. Old habits die hard, particularly if these old habits were not counted off previously. On the other hand, being counted off repeatedly could lead not to a change of habits, but instead a spirit of indifference to the entire QA process. One potential way to help overcome these hurdles is the gradual rollout of a new or revised form. This not only allows the calibration team more practice on some items before agents are being scored on them, but also gives the agents on the phone fewer potential habits to change at once. This approach is strengthened further if the agents are given an opportunity to learn the new [...]


Five things to change about how you lead.

April 3 - The new leader's power to influence will not come from their position or title but from their ability to articulate a vision that connects with the workforce. -- Michelle Pallas  What makes leadership so different today? Is it technology? Multiple generations? Globalization? Or maybe just the pace of business and life in general? I think the answer to all of them is "Yes!" While some skills needed by leaders are timeless, I think there are some attitudes or actions leaders must take that represent a departure from what has been done in the past. If you're struggling to find your footing as a leader or manager, here are five potential changes I believe will help you achieve greater success: Quit trying to have all the answers.  The old "command and control" days are long gone. Information is immediately accessible to anyone. Your strength as a leader today lies [...]


The Perfect Pair of Shoes.

March 27 - When looking for the perfect shoes, you want to find a pair that fit your taste, style and foot size. If the sales clerk at the shoe store tries to sell you a pair that you don't like or a pair that are too small, you're going to leave the store empty handed. When attempting to make a sale, you need to uncover what is important to the customer. If you don’t focus on benefits that are relevant to the customer's needs/concerns, you will end the call empty handed. Based on the information gathered from probing questions, you must use product knowledge to sell them the perfect pair of shoes! Four quick tips for the perfect fit: Customize suggestions for the customer Keep the strategy consistent at all times Be sure product suggestions are relevant to the customer Evaluate and adopt your strategy by discovering what works best [...]


How to conduct a calibration session.

March 13 -  Last week’s tip started our conversation on calibration with a discussion on why calibration is important and the benefits of calibration.  This week we will look at some how to conduct a calibration session. The following basic steps are prerequisites to consistent calibration: Every employee responsible for monitoring and scoring contacts should have an excellent working knowledge of the contact center’s services. Those doing the monitoring must understand how the standards are administered. Those doing the monitoring should be given formal training in the program, as well as relevant documentation on criteria and definitions. The following describes some tips for a successful calibration session: Schedule at least one hour of uninterruptible time. Choose a facilitator. The role of the facilitator is to direct discussions, take notes and keep the team focused. Observe a contact and have all participants use your monitoring form to make notes and score the [...]


Why does calibration matter?

March 6 - Call calibration is necessary to ensure consistency and fairness in the monitoring process. Calibration provides the opportunity to test the process and confirm that consistent standards are applied to each monitored contact. When high levels of calibration are achieved, it will not matter who did the monitoring and scoring; the outcome will be the same. For a monitoring process to succeed, it is essential to integrate calibration into the planning, implementation and ongoing maintenance of your monitoring program. When you and your team are successfully calibrated, you can enjoy a number of benefits.  Successful calibration does the following: Provides consistency Reduces the likelihood of agents questioning fairness Continuously develops and assesses monitoring criteria Eliminates perceived biases by ensuring consistent application of standards and scoring Allows the coaching process to focus on recognizing achievements and identifying opportunities for improvement, instead of whether a particular score is accurate It’s important [...]


Learn what’s sticking.

February  27 - End every training session by asking each person to say something that they don’t want to forget by tomorrow – something new that they learned or a key takeaway that they had. Allow a dedicated amount of time for this closure and be sure to complement their feedback and reiterate key points of their statement. The responses will help you as the trainer identify what stuck and stood out from your session.  In addition, the CSR’s will often build off each other’s comments and engage in beneficial dialogue around the day’s topic. Remember – you want your training to be a sticky as possible, so the more avenues you use to drive your point home – the better! Note:  This week's tip is provided by brought to you by ICMI Contact Center Expo & Conference, set for May 22-25, 2017 in Orlando, FL. 


Agent pushback – things to consider when addressing disputed assessments.

February 6 - Do you agree with everything someone tells you about yourself? If so, then I would like to meet you and tell you how indiscriminately generous you are and how willing you are to share your wealth with complete strangers -- like me! While the illustration is extreme, please consider the underlying truth: we are selective about the feedback we receive and believe. Our acceptance, or rejection for that matter, is largely dependent on our awareness of the issue, the source of the feedback, and our personal acuity concerning the same. Dynamic and engaging quality programs provide a place for individuals to conscientiously and professionally address these three elements of the feedback. Just as quality feedback should be delivered in a timely manner, a venue for questions and disputes should be structured with the same time of timely follow-through. For example, if quality feedback is assured within a 30-day [...]


Engage your QA team in the training process.

January 23 -    Engage your QA Team in your new hire training process from the very start.  The call review process should be the right hand of training.   Call reviews ensure newly trained staff are retaining the training provided, using resources correctly, and aids in developing skill sets necessary to be successful.  By implementing quality assurance training during the training process you begin to develop authentic relationships between staff, trainers, and quality assurance teams.   Make sure employees understand the expectations, importance of call reviews, and how the quality assurance process will ultimately aid their professional development.   Note:  This week's tip is provided by QATC Board Member Angela Crozier of MPHI.  She can be reached at acrozier@mphi.org. 


QA processes that bring out the best in agents.

January 16 -   It is important that the Quality Assurance department have processes in place that bring out the best in agents from the time they start training.   In our organization, QA is given a slot for the training of new hires and the QA training is usually the last on the schedule before the new hires are deployed to the production floor.   From the first day of deployment, a team of Quality Assurance Executives, together with Learning and development Executives (trainers), do remote monitoring on these agents whiles team leaders do the side-by-side and real-time monitoring. At the end of every shift, the group of QA and L&D executives meets with these agents to review their recorded calls. Calls of each agent is randomly selected and reviewed and feedback given. Various scenarios are reviewed during these sessions and agent are coached on how to better handle customers and those [...]


Confidence is key and attitude is everything!

January 9 -   Two attributes that are very important for agents are confidence and attitude.  Share these examples during training or coaching to help them understand what these attributes can give them!   When a new driver goes to take their test, they must be confident that they have the ability to pass it. If the driving instructor senses that the driver is not confident, the instructor will not feel secure in the car. As a result, the driver is likely to fail.   Confidence is the first step to driving success. On the phones, we must indicate our confidence to the customer through a comfortable delivery of important information. This will allow us to pass through a successful call, as the contact feels secure in our ability to handle the call.   And secondly, your attitude reflects your outlook on the world. It may change with your mood or your [...]


Create a Quality Assurance Design Document (QADD).

January 2 - All quality assurance teams should have a Quality Assurance Design Document (QADD).  This is where each question listed on your QA form is documented, including the scoring possibility for each question and the expectations for each question.   When creating the document make sure to obtain feedback from agents, trainers, and leadership.  Be specific in your communication -- the QADD should be easy for all members of the team to understand.  Once completed, have an all-staff meeting to discuss and address any concerns.  For larger organizations you may need to have team or department meetings.   Make sure everyone has access to the QADD for future reference and plan an annual review to update business process as needed.  As you move forward, always take the necessary time to obtain the team’s feedback when completing annual updates.   Note:  This week's tip is provided by QATC Board Member Angela [...]


It’s all about the alignment and the follow-through.

December 26 - In several sports (golf, tennis, and baseball to name a few), the most successful pros say that an important factor needed to reach “number 1” status in the field is the “follow-through.” Without the proper follow-through applied, the shot taken can be lost.   The same applies to a sales pitch and overcoming objections. If you don’t get your “ace” or hit your “home run” or “hole in one” with your initial swing (the pitch), your follow-through (objections) are crucially important to reaching your goal (sale).  Always remember to “follow through” in order to be a pro in your field.   Along the same lines, imagine watching an Olympic figure skater performing an intricate jump during his/her program. For each jump, the skater's body must be in perfect alignment from head to toe to increase the chance of a successful landing (and ultimately achieve the Gold). The head, [...]


Update your Quality Assurance forms each year

December 19 -   By updating your Quality Assurance forms annually, you create an opportunity for business process improvement.  Done correctly, you will also gain insight from various members of the staff that are impacted most by the call review process.   We all face challenges on quality assurance metrics.  Take time to allow and be receptive to applying the feedback you receive from all staff.  This will create a better QA form and increase collaboration amongst the team.  Here are some items to cover when reviewing your form:   Engage the agents to obtain feedback on what portions of the existing QA forms they find most helpful in developing their skill sets and delivering quality services. Engage the training team on what areas of the QA form can better develop staff training retention. Engage the leadership team on what areas of the QA form can better meet operational needs.   [...]


How to create meetings that really matter.

December 12 - "We need more meetings" is something I rarely hear when working with employees in an organization. In fact, "ineffective meetings" is one of the top three "time bandits" listed by people in many of my time management training sessions.   Why are so many meetings seen as a waste of time? I think it's because the person leading the meeting forgets to ask one simple question when planning it: What do I want the group to do as a result of this meeting? Failing to answer that question leads to a litany of meeting missteps and underwhelms those who are in attendance.   If you're ready to create meetings that actually move yourself and your team forward, try these seven techniques:   Define the work to be done. As Liane Davey writes in an article about meetings, "Exclude topics where one person has clear accountability and can proceed [...]


Why do you listen for the customer name on calls?

December 5 - A lot of companies require agents to say the customer name on calls, and QA specialists are listening for that in their reviews.  But maybe we should look at why we listen for agents to say the customer name.   Using the customer’s name, like all other quality monitoring criteria, needs to be driven by a business objective. Using the caller’s name X number of times on a call may be a nice thing to do, but if it does not help you in achieving a company and/or call center objectives, then it really should not be on your quality evaluation form.   For some call centers where customer relationships are vital to their core business, using the customer’s name may be one of the behaviors that contribute to that end.  For other centers, the primary focus may be one of sales and thus using the customer name may [...]


Is Service an element of your Quality Program?

November 28 -              Here are three areas to check to help determine if service excellence is a priority in your quality program:

The Evaluation Form:  Generally 90% of evaluation forms measure agent’s adherence to processes, knowledge of systems, and ability to locate resolutions.  It’s not uncommon to see one, maybe two questions that measure how well the agent served the customer.  This sends a clear message to agents about what is most important, and of course agents are going to focus on processes and systems.  While it is vital your teams provide resolutions and fix problems, it’s how the agent does it that really matters to the customer.  How many questions on your evaluation form focus on connecting with and listening to the customer?   Training:  When new employees join your organization, what percentage of the training is focused on delivering customer service? We often see the same percentage when we look [...]


Millennial view: how best to provide feedback.

November 21 - While quarterly or annual reviews are excellent times to discuss holistic performance, these infrequent check-ins are not enough to promote a culture of learning and improvement. A TriNet survey about Millennials in the workplace found that 62 percent of Millennials feel “blindsided” by annual performance reviews. And who’s to blame them? Giving frequent feedback, as opposed to yearly, allows employees to tweak their practices as they go and improve their weaker areas. Moreover, the majority of Millennial employees claim that they feel “in the dark” about how their managers perceive their performance day-to-day, but that more frequent conversations with their employers would make them feel more confident in their positions. Not only does constant feedback lead to more confidence and better performance reviews for employees, but also a higher quality end product for managers. That’s what we’re here for, right?   How to give feedback, to anyone from [...]


Millennial view: why Millennials want your feedback.

November 14 - We’ve all heard it—Millennials thirst for constant feedback.   While Millennials do enjoy praise (doesn’t everybody?), it's about more than just wanting compliments. Millennials are young. U.S. Labor statistics indicate that more than 17 million Millennials between the ages of eighteen and twenty-four currently hold jobs in the United States—fresh out of school and new to the workforce. We are used to the academic cycle of taking courses and receiving feedback in the form of grades, but not accustomed to the workplace reality of submitting projects without getting red marks in return. At least at the beginning of our careers, more feedback can help us make a smooth transition from classroom to office. Speaking of school, it cost us a lot. “The next time you have a hunch about why Millennials are the way they are, ask yourself if economic insecurity might be a better hypothesis,” says Samantha Allen. [...]


Get focused to maximize the impact of your QA program.

November 7 -                            There are several trends that are driving the need for change in how call center leaders manage costs. Since labor is still the biggest expense for any given call center, it’s not surprising that more and more executives are rethinking the way they manage this expense and, consequently, are re-evaluating how their quality monitoring systems and resources are used. One of the latest trends is to target the type of calls that are important to the organization - reducing handle times, increasing sales or reducing complaints. You can use a set of business rules that can define certain parameters or areas that QA can retrieve and listen regularly without hunting and pecking for calls.  QA also can perform live monitoring time waiting for those quality calls. This wasteful activity actually costs the organization valuable resources and ultimately money not to mention elevating stress levels for agents. The solution [...]


Tips for new coaches.

October 31 - We expect agents to handle calls as efficiently as possible while still maintaining good engagement with customers. The same expectations should be true for our coaches. Agents are the internal customers of our coaches.   Each leader may have different coaching styles, but new coaches might not have developed their own techniques or may not know where to start.  So here are some tips that can help new coaches in coaching sessions:   Prepare for the session by having a clear plan of what you would like to discuss with the agent. Although many items may come up as coaching opportunities, choose 2-3 items that will have the most impact in helping that particular agent improve their performance. Have the recorded call, knowledgebase page or any other resource that you would like to review with the agent, open and ready to go. That will help you to ensure [...]


How do you keep “advanced learners” engaged in your training classes?

October 24 - A common problem in training classes is that you have some “advanced learners” who are way ahead of the rest of the class.  There always seems to be one or two people who learn quickly and are ready to move on while the rest of the class is still struggling through the material. You don't want them bored, so it's important to keep them engaged. More… One way is to pair them with some of the folks that are taking a little longer to learn — this works especially well if they're learning the computer system and a more advanced person can help others along by providing some one-on-one assistance. You can also ask them to help out by writing some review questions for the material just covered. You may also want to keep some additional review materials or readings they can do if finished earlier than everyone [...]


Training on a shoestring – what would MacGyver do?

October 17 - “Well, when it comes down to me against a situation, I don't like the situation to win.” - MacGyver If you conducted a survey about training in your own organization, you'll probably hear things like. "My other responsibilities take up too much time," "The cost is too great," or a variety of other reasons.  But here is the reality: training NEEDS to occur and those situations WILL continue to exist.  Your success lies in your ability to identify the barriers in advance, adapt your training program, and overcome the odds. Whether you've got time to plan your training program or need to develop something on the fly, you're sure to run into some obstacles along the way.  You can easily avoid one of the common training pitfalls by taking a few minutes to identify potential barriers in the way of your training program. They are: Situational - Time, [...]


Compare monitoring scores against other call center measures for operational insights.

October 10 -        An interesting way to review your quality monitoring scores is to compare them against all types of other call center performance measures. One of the most important comparisons is between quality monitoring scores and overall customer satisfaction scores. You should see a high correlation. Higher monitoring scores should happen as customer satisfaction scores go up and vice versa.  If you don’t find this correlation, then you may be measuring the wrong things. Some call centers find that satisfaction scores may be slipping while monitoring scores are staying stable or going up. The reason for this is that the center is failing to monitor the aspects of the call that have the biggest impact on influencing customer satisfaction. Another comparison might be between quality scores and speed of answer. Many centers find that as service level suffers and delays get longer, quality scores go down. This may be due [...]


Where and when should reviews be done?

October 3 - Nothing is more de-motivating than watching the quality monitoring analyst head down your cubicle aisle, knowing that he/she has just completed a call evaluation.  Of course what would make this de-motivating is the experience of knowing that the quality analysts only meet with agents when they have found problems in a call!   Here are two suggestions for reviewing calls with your agents.   Schedule coaching sessions ahead of time and carry them out consistently, whether performance is good or bad. To save time, some call centers report that they simply pass along the written call evaluations when there are no “problems” with the call.  This practice is not a good idea.  You should meet with your agents regularly, even when their call evaluations are all good.  Remember that recognizing and reinforcing positive behaviors is just as valuable in influencing agent performance as coaching to skills needing improvement. [...]


Say No to TTWWADI.

September 26 - In today’s workplace, there are times when we get complacent in the job we are doing (especially if we are successful).  Then there is a tendency to stop looking at other ways of doing things for your business.  This is the syndrome known as TTWWADI (pronounced T-T-Wadi), which stands for "That's The Way We've Always Done It."  And I think this can be a death sentence to call center operations.    Even if your way for your business is best, it is always good to look at the way others do things to either find a better way or at least validate the way you are currently functioning. Sometimes you find people out there with problems you have resolved years before and you can validate the fact that your way might not be too bad.  On the other hand, you may find ways to tweak things you currently do, [...]


Try blending your training and quality teams.

September 19 - Have you ever thought of  “blending” your training and quality teams?   There are many great opportunities that you can take advantage of when you put these two groups together.  Here are some benefits: When the trainers are not teaching a class, they can be working with the quality teams doing side-by-side training on agents who have “areas of opportunity” identified by their quality scores.  The reps are comfortable with the trainers since they’ve all been together before for a long period of time in training and are used to asking them questions. You can make sure QA is scoring to what the trainers are training and find areas in the training that may need to be refined if there are numerous issues while on the phones. The trainers can identify agents that need more specific continuing education and create classes designed to help them.


Learning to handle angry callers.

September 12 - Learning to handle angry callers is one of the toughest tasks in the call center.  If the situation is handled poorly, the caller may go away even madder than when they called, tell many others about the situation, and decide never to do business with your organization again.  On the other hand, turning around an angry caller may create a customer who is even more loyal than someone that never had a problem in the first place. The first step in an encounter with an angry customer is for the agent to keep a positive mindset and be aware that the customer is not unhappy with them personally, but just upset about a situation.   Here are some other tips to use in coaching about angry callers: The agent should listen carefully and hear what the customer has to say. There are no suggested phrases to use – just [...]


Don’t forget that a complaint can be a gift!

September 5 - One of the hardest things for an agent is to take a call from someone who is unhappy and is calling to complain. However, a complaint call is an opportunity for your organization to satisfy an unhappy customer by fixing a service or a product breakdown. The most important thing for agents to remember about complaining customers is that they’re still customers – that’s the good news.  It’s the complaining callers that are giving you the opportunity to actually fix a situation and make them happy again.  Unfortunately, the majority of customers don’t complain to you.  They just complain to others and then take their business elsewhere. The first step an agent should do in handling a complaint call is to do the same thing they do when someone hands them a gift in person – you say “thank you.”  Then the agent should explain why they appreciate [...]


Coaching for “talkative” callers.

August 29 -  When an agent receives a call from someone who is overly “talkative,” it can be annoying and also a drain on staffing resources.  Coaches need to help agents develop a way to control the conversation without being insulting or disrespectful to the customer. The key to working with an overly talkative called is to be polite, yet firm.  It is important that the agent is careful not to damage the customer’s self-esteem while taking control of the conversation. Agents should avoid open-ended questions with these callers, since these type of questions provide an open door for a new round of conversations and explanations.  The key to controlling a talkative caller is to ask closed-end questions where the response is a single word or two. Another technique is the use of space control – the amount of time left between words or phrases.  If there’s too much of a [...]


Real-Time Speech Analytics from Verint Optimizes Customer Engagement with Actionable Intelligence

Advanced Analytics Solution Helps Customer Engagement Centers Guide Interactions Toward Positive Outcomes, While Supporting Regulatory Compliance and Other Key Organizational Initiatives MELVILLE, N.Y., August 24, 2016 —Verint® Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: VRNT) today announced enhancements to its Real-Time Speech Analytics™ solution. The software, which leverages conversational indicators and analyzes customer calls as they unfold, enables organizations to take a proactive approach to identifying opportunities to guide interactions for the mutual benefit of both the end customer and the organization. With the ability to positively influence customer interactions as they take place, companies can increase first-contact resolution, enhance the customer experience, manage policy and regulatory compliance and heighten satisfaction and loyalty. Contextual Guidance at the Right Time The sophisticated rules engine in Verint Real-Time Speech Analytics can identify the presence or absence of words and phrases, as well as the sentiment expressed. With rules functionality that supports a wide variety of word sequences [...]


Insurance Specialist Admiral Group Drives Improvements in Customer Engagement Quality with Verint Solutions

Verint Customer Analytics and Workforce Optimisation Software Helps Organisation Achieve More Intelligent, Faster and Accurate Way of Categorising Calls to Gain New Levels of Customer Insight WEYBRIDGE, U.K. and MELVILLE, N.Y., 22 August 2016 — Verint® Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: VRNT) today announced that one of the UK’s largest car insurance providers, Admiral Group, has gained new levels of customer insight leveraging Verint Speech Analytics™, alongside its Verint Quality Management™ (QM)and Call Recording™ solutions.Using the integrated recording and speech engine to capture and analyse inbound and outbound calls, Admiral Group continues to gain a deeper understanding of the customer journey to identify training needs, improve operational efficiencies, and ultimately deliver an enhanced customer experience. As one of the UK’s largest car insurance providers with market share across four brands—Admiral, Bell, Diamond and Elephant—Admiral Group operates several customer-facing contact departments. Based in South Wales, the group also has offices in Bangalore, Delhi and in Halifax, [...]


Tips on coaching and training agents for difficult calls.

August 22 - One aspect of the job as a call center agent that is hard to get used to is how to handle difficult calls.  It is hard to train and coach for these calls as well. Nice customers and routine calls are usually pretty easy to handle, and can give agents the feeling of a job well done when they are finished.  Then there are the difficult calls that get interspersed with the others that are a little harder to handle and present agents with a more challenging work day. There are many ways to define hard-to-handle calls.  Some types of calls are merely a bit challenging while others are downright difficult to take.  Calls that fall into the somewhat challenging category might be callers that are confused, people that are overly-friendly or flirtatious, and those that are extremely talkative. The primary requirements for handling a confused, flirtatious, or [...]


Don’t give up.

August 15 - We have all had that call center agent that we just cannot figure out.  Why don’t they get it yet, what is the problem, why are they not implementing the coaching given, how do I get through to them? You spend time reviewing their stats, talking to them about how to improve in area’s, ask them how you can help, but you both still can’t put your finger on what is driving the poor behavior. Have you sat with them side by side?  Have you hooked up to their headset to listen and watch them take calls?  If not, you are missing out on a huge coaching opportunity.  This is where you will pick up on why their handle time is too high, why they always seem behind and why their quality is still inconsistent.  Below are some items you will be able to observe when sitting with [...]


Small steps can be the solution.

August 8 - In today’s fast paced call center environment, we sometimes look for the quickest resolution to a performance issue, but is that really working? An associate who is struggling with overall performance is usually overwhelmed with figuring out how to juggle it all and do it quickly. The solution? Small Steps.   Identifying performance issues. Help an associate turn around overall poor performance starts with identifying why their performance is not meeting expectations: Are they new to the field? Are they a seasoned associate who has become disengaged? Do they lack the confidence or the knowledge needed to improve their performance? It is important to include the associate in this first step. Do not assume that you know what is causing poor performance and keep an open mind during these conversations. While it may seem on the surface that an associate is not willing to follow guidelines, it could [...]


Get brains in gear for the day of training.

August 1 -  Start out each day of training with some kind of brainteaser or game to get your reps’ brains in gear and ready for a day of learning. It doesn’t have to be extensive -- just a short 10-15 minute exercise will work. Some could be unrelated to the training material and some could reinforce the training material. Pictures that represent common phrases are always good for exercising the brain. For example: |R|E|A|D|I|N|G| is Reading Between the Lines   List product slogans and have them guess which products go with the slogans. If your company provides products, use those one morning and use just generic products another morning. For example:   “Nobody doesn’t like” is Sara Lee   Unscrambling words is another option. The words could be job-related or just some category like names of states. You will most likely find it worth the extra 15 minutes to get [...]

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